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STUDY: Taser Use Can Lead to Sudden Cardiac Arrest, Death

| Indianapolis—A new study shows an electronic control device (ECD), often referred to as a “Taser,” has the capacity to provoke ventricular arrhythmias, sudden cardiac arrest and even death. The device is popular among law enforcement officials who use the weapon to stun suspects by shooting electrified barbs, which deliver an initial 50,000-volt shock.

The study, which is in Monday’s issue of the journal Circulation, analyzed eight cases from 2006-2009 where clinically healthy men suffered ECD-induced loss of consciousness and all but one died. The researcher, Indiana University Health cardiologist Dr. Douglas P. Zipes, reviewed police, medical and emergency response records; ECD dataport interrogation; automated external defibrillator information; electrocardiogram strips; depositions and autopsy reports.

Previous researchers have not had access to as many materials and cases as Zipes. In addition, Zipes has a deep background in offering expert advice at trials where ECD use was a key issue.

“This study doesn’t say that we should abandon using Taser devices, but it does show that users should exercise caution, avoid chest shocks and monitor the person after shock to ensure there are no adverse reactions,” said Zipes, also a distinguished professor emeritus of medicine with the Krannert Institute of Cardiology at the Indiana University School of Medicine. “Taser users need to be prepared for the possibility of inducing sudden cardiac arrest in those stunned and have adequate medical knowledge in such situations.”

The study analyzed men ranging in age from 16 to 48 and found severely abnormal heart rhythms in six of the eight cases following shock. The study did not explore how common it is for ECDs to induce death.

To schedule a time to talk to Dr. Zipes, contact Kristofer Karol at 317.962.4589.


About Indiana University Health Named among the “Best Hospitals in America” by U.S. News & World Report for 14 consecutive years, Indiana University Health is dedicated to providing a unified standard of preeminent, patient-centered care. A unique partnership with Indiana University School of Medicine – one of the nation’s leading medical schools – gives our highly skilled physicians access to innovative treatments using the latest research and technology.


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